The “Hurt Locker” of News Interviews
The media love conflict and controversy. That’s what makes for a good story. So, they often seed questions with a word or two designed to provoke a controversial response. I call these “Interview IEDs.” They’re designed to make you blow up. Figuratively speaking, of course.
And what could be a more fertile potential source of conflict and controversy than the big oil companies after their periodic public spanking by Congress?
Putting yourself in the place of an oil company CEO, it would seem enticing to use the venue of a live interview to fire back. But, the smart executives understand there’s no reward in doing that. And the really smart ones know how to avoid “Interview IEDs.”
For instance, Chevron’s John Watson, shortly after a recent US Senate hearing, appeared live with Fox business anchor, Neil Cavuto.
“Did you feel that you were just part of a kangaroo court…?” Cavuto asked.
“We take the opportunity we get. Sometimes the comments have to be short, but we try to get our points across,” Watson answered.
(Note: No need to be quoted talking about the Senate committee being a “kangaroo court.”)
Cavuto: “Do you think if you guys weren’t making so much money…there would even be a hearing today?”
Watson: “Well, our business is big and I think that’s hard for anyone to understand…”
(Editor note: I love this answer; it’s responsive without getting into the issue of money.)
Cavuto: “…making all that money, you certainly don’t need any tax breaks; you don’t need any tax subsidies…”
Watson: “Well, what we need is tax treatment that is comparable to what other companies receive…”
(Editor note: Often, you can adopt a word or phrase in a question to bridge to a response on your terms, instead of being drawn into controversy.)
Watson is a good listener. He made sure he heard the the questions and avoided stepping onto Cavuto’s IEDs.